country-blues/soul singer valerie june’s much-anticipated debut record ‘pushin’ against a stone’ is finally here. stream the whole thing for free now. #soundcheck

August 9, 2013

The magic of Valerie June’s voice is its ability to instantly transport you to a summer night in Tennessee, sitting on a porch with some friends passing around a guitar and a bottle of whiskey. Her unique voice may not have the bombast often found in female folk and blue singers, but it draws substantial power from its authenticity. Though she’s joined by a preposterously tight backing band (you know you’re onto something special when the great Booker T. Jones shows up for a guest spot) nothing on Pushin’ Against A Stone matches the subtle intensity of Valerie June’s voice.

Opening with the undeniable country-blues meets 70s soul “Workin’ Woman Blues,” the record shows a zeal for stretching Valerie’s folk songs in new and exciting directions. Gospel on “Somebody to Love,” the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins on “Pushin’ Against A Stone,” while “Wanna Be On Your Mind” is about one flute solo away from a classic Isaac Hayes production. But no matter where she and her versatile backing band push her songs, her entrancing story telling and enchanting voice keep center stage.

It’s rare that a debut album has this much personality. It’s rare that a debut finds the artist in such absolute control of their sound and their voice. What are lauded as great debut albums are often because they show great potential, if not actual great songs. Pushin’ Against A Stone has both. Truly great songs performed by an artist who seems to have the potential to do anything she wants. It’s exciting to look towards the future of what Valerie June might do next, but maybe it’s better to just sit out on the porch for a minute with a glass of cheap whiskey and some friends and enjoy the night.

Stream the full record over at NPR here. Buy the album at

– Words by Nathan Leigh